Although Emily Brontë (BRAHNT-ee) published only one novel, Wuthering Heights, it is this work for which she is best known. When the novel was published in 1847, it won some praise for its originality and power, but in general, reviewers found its violence disturbing and its dominant character, Heathcliff, excessively brutal. Wuthering Heights did not offer the charm and optimism that many readers wanted to find in a work of fiction. As is often the case with original work, it took time for the world to appreciate it fully; today, however, Wuthering Heights is given a prominent place among the significant novels of the nineteenth century and is often discussed for its elaborate narrative structure, its intricate patterns of imagery, and its powerful themes of the soul’s anguish and longing.
By the time Brontë began Wuthering Heights, she had long been using her imagination to create stories full of passionate intrigue and romance. First, as a young child she participated in a series of family games called Young Men’s Plays, tales of military and political adventures primarily directed and recorded by the older children, her sister Charlotte and her brother Branwell. After Charlotte left for school in 1831, Emily and her younger sister Anne began their own creation, a long saga of an island they called Gondal, placed in the north Pacific yet very much resembling their own Yorkshire environment. They peopled this island-world with strong, passionate characters. Unfortunately, nothing remains of their prose chronicle of Gondal. Two journal fragments and two of the birthday notes that she and Anne were in the habit of exchanging make mention of this land. These notes also offer some insight into the everyday world of the Brontë household and are of great interest for this reason. The only other extant prose, besides a few unrevealing letters, is a group of five essays which she wrote in French as homework assignments while a student in Brussels. This material has since been translated by Lorine White Nagel and published under the title Five Essays Written in French (1948). Some similarities can be seen between the destructive and powerful descriptions of nature and human character discussed in these essays and the world of Brontë’s poetry and fiction.